CHICAGO – Six plays into a game at their personal House of Horrors, the Vikings had a sack, a strip, a fumble recovery and a game-ending knockout of Bears starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
“I saw [Trubisky rolling] and I just kept pursuing from the backside like I always do,” said defensive end Danielle Hunter, who caught up to Trubisky near the Bears’ sideline on third-and-4 from the Chicago 43-yard line.
“What I saw is [Hunter] get the ball out,” defensive end Everson Griffin said. “I thought I could scoop and score. I thought I was to the crib but somebody pushed me out of bounds.”
“I looked up,” Hunter said, “and saw the flag. It’s such a negative feeling. You do the play and you look up and … it doesn’t count.”
Except for poor Mitch and his injured left shoulder.
Ten plays later, backup quarterback Chase Daniel got the matchup he was looking for — big linebacker Anthony Barr on shifty little running back Tarik Cohen — en route to a 10-yard touchdown pass in a 16-6 victory at Soldier Field.
Welcome to 2019. The Year of the Yellow Flag. Make a play, hold your breath and scan the field for laundry.
“Yeah,” said safety Harrison Smith, “but that’s not just for us. You’re seeing that all over the league.”
In this case, the guilty party — safety Anthony Harris — pleaded guilty to holding tight end Trey Burton on the play. Video evidence supports Harris’ claim that — sorry, fans — the Vikings were not robbed on that particular call.
“Key turnover there and I get a holding penalty, which is a little bit uncharacteristic of me,” Harris said. “But sometimes you get those calls, and I hurt the team there.
“[Burton] just came up for like a little bit for the ball. I kind of got my hands on him. I gave up that turnover.”
Nose tackle Linval Joseph was asked about his initial feeling when Hunter made the strip and Griffen got the ball. Finally, some good news at Soldier Field, eh Linval?
“Nope,” he said. “Today, I feel like the beginning of the game, the refs, the calls, they were crazy.”
But the Vikings had only that one penalty in the first 17 minutes of the game.
Joseph acknowledged that, but he was talking more about what he thought was a bad spot on a fourth-and-1 play four snaps after the negated takeaway. The officials stopped the game for a measurement and the Bears made it by an inch, at most.
“I feel like they didn’t get it,” Joseph said. “Once that happened, I just knew it was going to be … I don’t know. It’s on us. A lot of penalties today. Sloppy game. I think we lead the league in penalties.”
Not quite, but the Vikings did come in tied for eighth.
Coach Mike Zimmer stopped short of calling the negated takeaway a “game-changer” since it came three minutes into a 60-minute contest.
“It was a 16-play drive, and I think they converted fourth down [later],” Zimmer said. “We weren’t tight enough on the receivers early in the game.”
No offense, Zim, but this game had fewer than 500 yards of total offense. The Bears won with 269 yards and five third-down conversions while playing 57 minutes with a nine-year backup quarterback with four starts.
The takeaway easily could have been a game-changer against an opportunistic team that doesn’t squander its takeaways.
Last year, the Bears led the league with 36 takeaways. They were third in turnover differential at plus-12.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Bears had six takeaways and were tied for first in turnover differential at plus-4. Sunday, they turned two takeaways into six points.
The Vikings’ turnover differential dropped to zero Sunday. They had no takeaways.
Actually, they did have one. But it was taken away.
“We got it,” Hunter said, “but you look up and it didn’t even count. That’s tough.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraignfl. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org